James Adam (classicist)

James Adam (1860–1907) was a Scottish classicist[1][2] who taught Classics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

James Adam
Born7 April 1860
Kinmuck, Keithhall, Aberdeen, Scotland
Died30 August 1907(1907-08-30) (aged 47)
Aberdeen, Scotland
Alma materUniversity of Aberdeen
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Notable worksPlatonis Crito
The Republic of Plato
The Religious Teachers of Greece
SpouseAdele Marion (née Kensington)
Children3, Barbara, Arthur, Neil


He was born on 7 April 1860 in Kinmuck in the parish of Keithhall near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. He was educated at the Old Grammar School in Old Aberdeen, at the University of Aberdeen where he studied under William Geddes and gained his B.A. as Senior Classic in 1884, and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he graduated as M.A. in 1888.[3]

In 1884 Adam was appointed Junior Fellow and soon thereafter Senior Lecturer in the Classics at Emmanuel College.

In 1890, a former student of his, Adele Marion (née Kensington) (1866–1944),[1] became his wife and lifelong collaborator. Their daughter, Barbara Frances (1897–1988), was the British sociologist and criminologist, Lady Barbara Wootton, one of their sons, Captain Arthur Innes Adam, was killed in France on 16 September 1916[4] and another son, Neil Kensington Adam,[1] became a noted chemist.

Adam was "one of the greatest Platonists of his generation".[1] His editions and commentaries on Plato's Apology, Crito, Euthyphro, Protagoras, and the Republic are widely respected even today:

[His] two-volume critical edition of the Republic was another major contribution to the field. Though his preface claims 'an editor cannot pretend to have exhausted its significance by means of a commentary,' Adam's depth of knowledge and erudite analysis of the Greek text ensured that his edition remained the standard reference for decades to follow, and it remains a thought-provoking evaluation of one of the great works of Western thought.[5]

He was a "strong defender of the importance of Greek philosophy in a well-rounded education"[6] and "a resolute opponent of all attempts to make Greek an optional study".[7] He was also a "keen supporter of the claims of women to degrees, when the question came before the senate of the university in 1897"[8]

In 1904 and 1905 Adam delivered the Gifford Lectures at Aberdeen, choosing for his subject "The Religious Teachers of Greece".

He died in Aberdeen on 30 August 1907.

Editions and commentaries on Plato

  • Platonis Apologia Socratis. Cambridge University Press, 1887.
  • Platonis Crito. Cambridge University Press, 1888. 2nd edition, 1893.
  • Platonis Euthyphro. Cambridge University Press, 1890.
  • Platonis Protagoras. Cambridge University Press, 1893 with Adele Marion Adam.
  • The Republic of Plato. Cambridge University Press, 1899. 2nd edition edited by D. A. Rees, 1965.

Other writings


  1. Carrington, A.; Hills, G. J.; Webb, K. R. (1974). "Neil Kensington Adam 1891–1973". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 20: 1–26. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1974.0001. JSTOR 769631.
  2. Stray, Christopher, ed. (2005). The Owl of Minerva: the Cambridge praelections of 1906: reassessments of Richard Jebb, James Adam, Walter Headlam, Henry Jackson, William Ridgeway and Arthur Verrall. Cambridge Philological Society. ISBN 978-0-906014-27-1.
  3. "Adam, James (ADN880J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. "Casualty Details: Arthur Innes Adam". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  5. James Adam (ed.), "The Republic of Plato", PhilPapers. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  6. The Republic of Plato, Volume 2. Books VI–X and Indexes, cambridge.org. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  7. "Adam, James (ADN880J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  8. Peter Giles, "Adam, James (1860–1907)", rev. Mark J. Schofield, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
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